EFESan Jose

Treating farm workers better and protecting the environment efficiently are the bases for providing the world with sustainable agriculture in the future, and a new set of standards with international certification has been designed to make sure that happens.

The executive director of the Sustainable Agriculture Network, or SAN, the Brazilian Andre de Freitas, told EFE that the new standards created by this NGO are "very ambitious," but he has no doubt that this the path that must be followed.

The SAN, founded in 1997 with headquarters in Mexico, is a coalition of non-profit conservationist organizations in the Americas, Africa, Europe and Asia that promote the environmental and social sustainability of agriculture through the development of best practices, certification and training for farmers around the world.

"The future of sustainable agriculture must entail more respect for the environment and better treatment of workers. There's no need to cut down more forests or eradicate other ecosystems to make way for agriculture - there are already vast areas cleared for farmland around the world that are either abandoned or underused," De Freitas said.

The new set of standards, SAN 2017, which will take effect next July to give farms enough time to get up to date, favors the environment, workers and pollinators, while boosting "climatically intelligent agriculture" that does everything possible to reduce greenhouse gases and counteract climate change.

For farm workers, the standards seek compliance with the guidelines of the International Labour Organization, or ILO, with regard to decent working conditions, minimum wage, and access to basic needs for workers like drinking water and health care, plus the freedom to form unions and engage in collective bargaining.

While SAN's executive director acknowledged that pesticides are an inescapable part of agriculture, he said producers must make an effort to avoid using the more harmful ones and apply more natural methods to protect theit crops

"Our standards system is pretty ambitious and for that reason we say it's the future of sustainable agriculture...Sustainability is the way to go and the best way is to focus on the most critical issues and resolve them gradually," De Freitas said.

The SAN has awarded sustainability certificates to more than 1.2 million farms in 47 countries of the Americas, Asia and Africa, which add up to approximately 3 million hectares (7.4 million acres) - a third of them in Latin America - which grow approximately 100 different kinds of crops.